I've been spending some time at the SL11B sims, looking around the various builds... the birthday celebration has been offering impressive sights and impressive lag in roughly equal proportions. I took some snapshots, and may well take more.
Of course, the question is, will there be an SL12B next year, give the latest Epic Controversy That Will Bring About The End Of The Grid, Ebbe Linden's announcement that a successor platform to Second Life is in development?
Well, my guess would be yes... over the past eleven years, SL has built up a heck of a lot of inertia. People have invested gigantic chunks of time, love, and actual money in it, and they won't easily let that go. And it's still the major source of revenue for the Lab, and they won't let that go.
However, the announcement that "SL2" won't necessarily be backwards-compatible with existing SL content gives me a little pause for thought. Like it or not, that positions SL2, in a way, as a [I]competitor[/I] for SL... it will compete with the existing virtual world for my time, my attention, my cash.
... possibly. We know, as yet, very little about the plans for SL2 - not even whether it will be called SL2. We know it's planned to be in beta some time next year, we know it won't necessarily be compatible with existing SL - hmm, I say. To what extent will it not be compatible?
I mean... will existing SL avatars automatically have, or be able to get, SL2 accounts in the same names? If so, that would be a major plus - the stuff I have in SL, I can happily leave behind: I'm a builder, I can always make more stuff. The existing relationships between people - groups, friendships, partnerships - are much more important, and if they can make the transition intact, then that's a major obstacle to adoption out of the way.
Of course, I say "I'm a builder", but so far we don't know what sort of inworld creation will be possible in SL2, or even if it will be possible at all! (But if it isn't... well, the creative aspect of SL is one thing that keeps me coming back. Losing that from SL2 would be fatal to my interest in the project.)
What won't they keep? Well, the inertia that will keep SL "classic" going also lumbers it with a lot of stuff that ought to change, but is now far too entrenched and too expensive to update. I'd expect, frankly, that SL2 would include the creation of an Avatar 2.0 - probably with lots more detail, and more extensive armatures for rigging. Which would mean that SL classic UV maps for clothing, all existing rigged mesh items, and possibly BVH animation files, would not necessarily be compatible with the new avatar - all that stuff would have to start from scratch.
Whatever build system gets implemented, I wouldn't expect sculpted prims to make the cut, either. As an interim form between prim-based builds and mesh imports, sculpted prims have their fascination... but, ultimately, the technology for them is a blind alley, and I wouldn't expect a new platform to explore it.
We're told that SL2 will have Linden dollars and a Marketplace, "but better". This implies to me that our account balances certainly won't transfer over, or be shareable between the two virtual worlds. That might be another negative, there, in that setting up payment details and making separate payments into the new world is a bit of a hassle.
We don't know much about the technology it'll be using. There's been talk of SL2 running on mobile devices, which implies a very "thin client" approach. That might, frankly, be preferable to total-immersion systems using tech like Oculus Rift. (Although fascinating, Oculus Rift has always struck me as one of those very nifty pieces of technology that are solutions desperately in search of a problem. Most of us don't have - or even particularly want - lifestyles which permit total immersion in a video game. I'm a lot happier being able to see the real world out of the corner of my eye, just in case my mother sets the house on fire.)
And we do know that, whatever sort of client is used, it won't be open source, so third party viewers won't be an option (or not easily at least). I can see the Lab's point of view, there... the benefits and insights gained from TPV development are almost certainly outweighed by the massive amounts of hassle the TPVs have caused over the years, whether from copybotting viewers, or one-off cases like the Emerald fiasco, or maintaining inworld consistency between different viewers, or the bullying behaviour of some TPV advocates... The temptation to have a very simple TPV policy of "no TPVs" must have been irresistible. (People who absolutely cannot do without the V1.23 interface and its annoying pie menus are cordially invited, here, to take the traditional virtual stepladder and use it for the traditional purpose.)
But, for the most part... we just don't know. We can speculate six ways from Sunday, and I just have. Perhaps there will be a glowing portal in the middle of the mainland that we can step through with our current SL identities intact, and the building system will make 1 Land Impact equal to a set blob of voxels that you can manipulate inworld with a Blender-like toolkit - in which case I will be diving through it with my hammer, chisel and blowlamp clutched eagerly in my little paws. Or perhaps it will be keyed off your RL Facebook or Google+ accounts, and all the creation will be done with mesh imports, in which case you couldn't pay me to touch it. We just don't know.
It's going to be interesting to find out, though.